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Macedonia and Greece finally reach agreement on names

GREEK Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras today hailed a “historic” agreement with Macedonia that brings to an end a long and bitter row over the name of its northern neighbour.

His Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev said the compromise, which will see the country use the name the Republic of North Macedonia domestically and internationally, was “the only patriotic way” and was a chance that needed to be “seized bravely.”

“We got a fair deal … with this solution we are strengthening Macedonian ethnic and cultural identity,” he said.

The deal brings an end to 27 years of negotiations and protests over the name of the former Yugoslav country, with Greece objecting to its use of Macedonia, fearing territorial claims.

Under the agreement, the country’s language will remain Macedonian, as insisted on by Skopje, while people’s nationality will be defined as “Macedonian/Citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia.”

It follows months of talks between the leaders of the two countries, with Mr Zaev saying “there is no way back” in announcing the historic deal live on Macedonian television.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and commissioner Johannes Hahn welcomed the announcement.

“We wholeheartedly congratulate Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev for their determination and leadership in reaching this historic agreement between their countries, which contributes to the transformation of the entire region of south-east Europe,” they said in a statement.

The name change will be put to the Macedonian parliament for ratification and the public will vote in an autumn referendum.

It could pave the way for Macedonia’s membership of the European Union (EU) and Nato, which has previously been blocked by Greek opposition.

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